==> Be prepared: This always happens out of the blue:

It can happen to you or a family member any day!

What to Do When You Meet a Dangerous Dog

call 911This has happened to me quite a few times already, and maybe to you too: You are walking along (after work, after shopping, to a bus, train station, whatever), and suddenly a potentially dangerous dog holds you up!

(S)he may be snarling, or (s)he may not - but you feel that something isn't right with that dog, at that moment. If that dog is big (GSD and up), loose (no owner anywhere) and snarling, the least you will get is goosebumps, right?

So, let's address these situations TODAY. This will be a short Periodical, but not so short that I just say...

R U N! :-)

RUNHopefully, this Periodical will partially remind you of What to do when we come across a roaming dog that you saw within the subject of Dog Bite Prevention! However, TODAY our focus is not limited to dog bite prevention but our focus is much broader: How to avert potential aggression of another dog - a dog that is not our own dog.

Potential aggression? The dog may display outright aggression, or (s)he may not, but nonetheless appear potentially dangerous. You got that feeling, you know?

Remember that How to avoid aggression of our own dog we just had in the prior MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL How to prevent dog aggression - hence why today's topic is the logical add-on! When you have followed the prior Periodical's advice how to calm and balance your own dog, now you need to know how to calm and balance another dog.

So what's the difference?

The key difference is that you can't address the cause of another dog's aggression!

  • You can't roll back its upbringing (missed socialization?, traumatization?)
  • You can't roll back its owner's 'training' approach (used punishment?, used intimidation?, used pure Obedience Training?)
  • And you can't roll back its lack of exercise and permanent high stress level! - This is probably the very reason why the dog in front of you is potentially dangerous.

Ie with another dog that is not your own dog, the only thing you can do is: to control the current situation, in the best way! Differences clear?scared

You definitely may want to let your children read this too.

How to spot a potentially dangerous dog

The first critical point of course is: to spot that kind of dog! We need to be able to notice that the particular dog could pose a risk.

This is what a Top dog expert says:
Find out more: Click to save vet cost, training cost, and your nerves!

we love testsSome people would now counter: "Any dog can pose a risk!!" - Well, yes but then also any person can pose a risk! You simply don't know who is a robber, a murderer, a terrorist - until something happens. But like a police officer gets some training to spot which person is more likely to turn into a troublemaker, here we get some training to spot which dog is more likely to pose a risk. Okay?

Instead of looking at the last text message received on your phone(!), when another dog approaches you, consciously look:

  • The dog is snarling. Hurray, a no-brainer!
  • The dog stands still, very stiff, tail above horizontal (see What the tail tells us)
  • Or you notice some of the other forms of dog body language that indicate potential dog aggression (focus on the dog stress signals)

Other than calling 911 or running away like the boys above... these are our general options: 2 * 3 * 3 =

  • Distract the dog (divert attention)
  • Calm the dog (lower its energy level)

And for each of these:

  • with visual object
  • with sound
  • with smell and taste

So, let's briefly go through these general options.

How to divert attention of a potentially dangerous dog

Here again we have three options:

  1. You have something that can distract the dog
  2. You wait for something in the environment that can distract the dog
  3. You find something in the environment that you can use to distract the dog

Remember, in general each of these can be a visual object, sound, or smell and taste.

1You have something that can distract the dog

If the dog is a retriever dog (most common examples: Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, Chesapeake Bay Retriever) or maybe trained to retrieve toys or other items, you have a good chance to divert the dog's attention by throwing away an attractive item, hence this should be your first attempt. But note these points:

  1. Choose an item that you don't value high, like your wallet! :-)
  2. Now seriously, ideally choose an item that is bright yellow or bright blue or both (you may take such item with you extra for this purpose)
  3. Before you throw the item away, make it attractive to the dog!
  4. Throw the item in a way that it is visible to the dog during the flight!
  5. And make sure the item lands neither too close nor too far away, and where it is visible when landed!

Have you seen the dog owners who throw a toy, and their dog shows zero interest to fetch or retrieve it? I have. Many times!

Ever wondered why their dog doesn't go for the item?

Because the dog owner forgot rule 3!

So, how do you make the item attractive to the dog before you throw it?

Before you throw the item, demonstratively look fascinated at the item/ look like you are fascinated of it. Sway it between your hands while you stare at it in excitement. I would even suggest that you "test-throw" it once (like most dog owners do with balls). No more than once though because you certainly don't want to annoy this dog with faked behavior!

Why rule 2? Why bright yellow or bright blue or both?

Because that's the colors dogs see, remember our Eye Care Periodical.

Why rule 4? Why visible during the flight?

Because you want that the dog's eyes follow the item. While the dog's eyes follow the item, the dog cannot concentrate on you, ie cannot approach you!

Why rule 5? Why visible when landed?

Because you want the best chance that the dog goes after the item. If a stressed dog can't even see the item, it's rather unlikely that (s)he will attempt to go looking for it!

This is what a Top dog expert says:
Find out more: Click to save vet cost, training cost, and your nerves!

What about sound?

A shot of a gun in the air would distract a potentially dangerous dog, yes (except gun dogs and other hunting dogs), but I hope you don't carry a gun with you when you are out and about. ;-) Almost as painful loud: using a shrill alarm. - Conversely, I doubt that rattling with your keys or throwing something like Mikki Discs would work.

What about smell and taste?

First, why do I combine smell and taste?

  • Because dogs have only 1/6th of the number of taste buds humans have (and most of them are on the tip of the tongue).
  • And, because dogs have an additional developed organ: the vomeronasal organ in the roof of the dog's mouth allows dogs to 'taste' smells. This organ (which in humans is undeveloped) transmits information directly to the part of the brain known as the limbic system, which controls emotional responses. We will utilize this knowledge later under Calming the dog.

To distract a potentially dangerous dog, the good old Pepper Spray will work (but depending on wind direction, it may impact you more than the dog): Pepper contains the chemical piperine which irritates the nasal nerves (of both dogs and humans) and causes prolonged sneezing. And pepper caught in the eyes ruptures the outer cells of the cornea, which is of course very painful (for both dogs and humans).

2You wait for something in the environment that can distract the dog

I don't mean you wait for a lunar eclipse or solar eclipse, an earthquake or a tornado. But sometimes it happens that you notice say, a motorbike in the distance (or a horse, depending on where you live). Any traffic is useful here. In such case you could decide to stand still for a couple of seconds until the environment may distract the dog. Any distraction is good at this time!

3You find something in the environment that you can use to distract the dog

This can be anything really. A branch or twig, a bicyle, bin, or whatever. But note that, at this time, the purpose is not to use the item as a defense or even attack item (you don't want to upset the dog!), but to use the item as distraction (throwing it away, rather than at the dog!).

For a more comprehensive description how to use tools (any tools!) to distract a potentially dangerous dog, see the Distraction Tools in the Dog Training Toolkit.

How to calm a potentially dangerous dog

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Again, in general you have three options:

  1. You have something that may calm the dog
  2. You wait for something in the environment that may calm the dog
  3. You find something in the environment that you can use to calm the dog

Remember, in general each of these can be a visual object, sound, or smell and taste.

1You have something that may calm the dog

Contrary to the above, to calm a potentially dangerous dog that you face outdoors, the Sedatives in the Dog Training Toolkit are not suitable here - they were meant to help with your own dog, not another dog you encounter somewhere outdoors.

However, I am just thinking of another tool (which I actually forgot in the Toolkit in my list of Sedatives!^&"%£*$), namely...

Using sound

Using sound to calm a dog indeed is highly suitable for a strange dog/stranger's dog too! The only problem when you come across a potentially dangerous dog somewhere outdoors: You are unlikely to have the music of Through a Dog's Ear or similar on you. :-( Through a dog's ear

Pity! Because Through a Dog's Ear would definitely calm the potentially dangerous dog! And I am pretty sure that you wouldn't even need to play it on the ghetto blaster that you carry with you every day.ghetto blaster boy

Thanks to dogs' super-sensitive hearing it's probably enough when you play it from the in-ear phones of your walkman, yes! I'd love to test this out one day. If I can, I'll report back here. Or you try it out before.

Using smell and taste

Above I mentioned that dogs have an additional developed organ: the vomeronasal organ. Now, this is exactly what the inventors of Sentry Stop That make use of. If you have it, and you spray out a tiny cloud, its molecules instantly reach the vomeronasal organ and send calming stimuli to the dog's brain! Thus, Sentry Stop That will help when you meet a potentially dangerous dog.

2You wait for something in the environment that may calm the dog

No. There are very few things happening in our environment that can calm a dog. Most things stress out the dog!

3You find something in the environment that you can use to calm the dog

I don't know of anything in the environment that we can use to calm a dog. Do you?

What to do if you can neither distract nor calm the dog

Now I can only remind to revisit the Periodical Dog Bite Prevention, particularly the section What to do when we come across a roaming dog. Or else: RUN! :-)

Dear kids: That's a joke. Never run away from a dog! You could trigger its prey-drive. If the dog was only potentially dangerous before, now (s)he may be really dangerous - depending how tall and strong you are.

German Shepherds do not have prey-drive (they are herding dogs), nonetheless when a GSD pursues you like an escaping lamb, you stand no chance to escape its guiding nip or grab-and-drag 'bite'. - Remember the kinds of 'bite' of a German Shepherd, explained in the Periodical Are German Shepherds dangerous?

I hope this Periodical helped to prepare you mentally for the (always possible) situation when you meet a potentially dangerous dog! Even when we don't have any helpful item on us, being mentally prepared avoids shock. When we are shocked, we can't think. Hence why being prepared helps.

 

Checklist * (see note at the bottom)

  • With a potentially dangerous dog that is not your own dog, the only thing you can do is: to control the current situation, in the best way!
  • When another dog approaches you, consciously look to detect its dog body language
  • If you feel that the dog could pose a risk, your genuine options are:
    • Distract the dog (divert attention)
    • Calm the dog (lower its energy level)
  • And for each of these:
    • with visual object
    • with sound
    • with smell and taste
  • And for each of these you have another three options:
    • You have something that can distract the dog
    • You wait for something in the environment that can distract the dog
    • You find something in the environment that you can use to distract the dog
  • Note that to distract a dog, you can use Distraction Tools from the Dog Training Toolkit
  • A good alternative is to throw away a certain item in a certain way (see above)
  • Note that to calm a potentially dangerous dog that you meet outdoors, the Sedatives in the Dog Training Toolkit are not suitable, but using sound like Through a Dog's Ear or using smell and taste like Sentry Stop That would definitely help (if you had it on you)
  • Obviously, never run away from a potentially dangerous dog, or you could trigger its prey-drive - but German Shepherds do not have prey-drive (they are herding dogs)

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==> Next edition: Coprophagia <==

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  3 Site Comments, ZERO SPAM Add one

  1.  

    I did not know all of this. I always knew not to look a strange dog in the eye; not to face him directly, but from the side; NOT TO RUN; and not to appear threatening. All the things you wrote make so much sense. A really, really helpful and necessary article.
    Thank you,
    Maureen
    PS=I would love a periodical on what to do if a stray dog (off leash) attacks your on leash dog. I have had this happen to me twice---both times by the same dog, in two different places!

    •  

      Okay. I thought I handled that topic somewhere, I need to look if it's not in here.
      (I can't remember them all in detail...)

      Edit: I just read through this again: It does answer what you were looking for Maureen. I would exactly proceed like this.
      Also note the basic dog rule: When our dog is leashed and an unleashed dog approaches us, we better unleash our dog immediately. This has a huge psychological effect on BOTH dogs, and it makes a fight MUCH LESS likely.

  2.  

    Great topic,, I wish everyone knew what to do and would avoid more negative outcomes. I know you were just being funny when you said , RUN, but hopefully everyone will read the whole article before using that advice. The last thing you should do is run which will only excite the dog's prey drive.

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